They've impersonated lawyers, police officers, private investigators and agents for a number of different payday lenders. Now these scammers try to convince their victims they work for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).

So far, it's one of the fastest-growing scams of 2010. The scammer has obtained the Social Security number or other sensitive information about the victim and claims the victim owes a debt of some kind. Better pay up immediately, they are told, or risk losing their jobs, getting arrested, or both.

Officials at FDIC, which has nothing to do with consumer debt in the first place, report getting numerous reports of suspicious telephone calls where the caller claims to represent the FDIC and is calling regarding the collection of an outstanding debt. Why the scammers choose the little known federal agency is not clear, though FDIC has crept into the public consciousness lately by handling a large number of bank closings over the last two years.

"The caller attempts to authenticate the claim by providing sensitive personal information, such as name, Social Security number, and date of birth, supposedly taken from the loan application," the agency said in a statement. "The recipient is then strongly urged to make a payment over the phone to 'avoid a lawsuit and possible arrest.' In some instances, the caller is said to sound aggressive and threatening."

Just hang up

These suspicious telephone calls, of course, are fraudulent. FDIC says recipients should consider them an attempt to steal money or collect personal identifying information. The FDIC said it generally does not initiate unsolicited telephone calls to consumers and is not involved with the collection of debts on behalf of operating lenders and financial institutions.

If a caller demonstrates that he or she has the recipient's sensitive personal information, such as Social Security number, date of birth, and bank account numbers, the recipient may be the victim of identity theft and should review his or her credit reports for signs of possible fraud.

The individual should also consider placing a "fraud alert" on his or her credit reports. This can be done by contacting one of the three consumer reporting companies listed below. Only one of the three companies needs to be contacted. That company is required to contact the other two, which will place an alert on their versions of the report.

Contacting the credit reporting agencies

TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, California 92834-6790

Equifax: 1-800-525-6285; ; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, Georgia 30374-0241

Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); P.O. Box 9554, Allen, Texas 75013